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2014 Draft Prep: Busts, 1.0

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Al Melchior's busts | Scott White's busts

The list of bust candidates for baseball always ends up being my least favorite column to write during draft prep season.

I'm not a fan of saying this player will suck, or that one's a bum. I'm a believer that if things break the right way for nearly any player -- a full-time job opens up, a coach suggests a tweak in batting stance, a trade gives him a fresh start -- he could have a real shot at a breakout season.

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So my criteria for busts are usually a little different. I look at where I have players ranked, and then hold it against ADP and other analyst ranks (mainly by using FantasyPros.com). This results in a list of players who won't necessarily be bad, but will likely finish significantly lower than where they're being drafted.

Note: The numbers in parentheses reflect average draft position on CBSSports.com, assuming a 12-team league.

Jose Abreu, 1B, White Sox (Roto: Rd. 10, H2H: Rd. 11)

I would be thrilled -- and not wholly surprised -- if Abreu hit .270 with 35 home runs and was an All-Star. But I also wouldn't be surprised if he hit .230 with 20 home runs. And with the White Sox having both Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko rostered and able to handle first base/DH duties, there's a somewhat legitimate possibility that a struggling Abreu -- and I mean really struggling, like .160 with three home runs through May 15 -- could be sent to the minors.

Abreu has a ton of talent, but the element of the unknown scares me a little bit. His spring training will probably shift his ADP significantly (and a bad spring may push his ADP down far enough to the point where he's a potential bargain), but there's still not a ton of indication as to what Abreu is going to do at the major league level. He may end up on some of my teams, but only if the perception of him drops to a certain level. As a 10th round pick, there's just too much risk associated with him to pass on other proven commodities.

Ryan Braun, OF, Brewers (Roto: Rd. 1, H2H: Rd. 2)

Braun had what was arguably the worst season of his career in 2013, battling neck and thumb issues before ultimately accepting a 65-game suspension for his involvement with the Biognesis clinic in south Florida. He returns in 2014 with a new position (he has moved from left to right field) and plenty of rust to shake off after playing in just 61 games last year.

We know very little about what Braun was on -- in terms of PEDs -- so any speculation here is a mix of logic and spotty knowledge, but the regimen Alex Rodriguez was allegedly prescribed by the same clinic suggests a highly-specialized and regulated series of pills and substances, including testosterone supplements taken before games that would act as energy-boosters, of sorts. There's a valid argument that being off PEDs may hurt Braun's power -- and that's before we get into his neck and thumb issues as well -- but if Braun was taking these energy boosters before games (again -- no proof here that he was, but it's a valid concern, considering this is all coming from the same clinic), it could mean an overall decline in numbers that will show up when the dust settles on the season.

There's no way of knowing what Braun did or what he was ingesting, but just by piecing together some information we have in hand, it might be wise watch him underperform on someone else's roster.

Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals (Roto: Rd. 6, H2H: Rd. 7)

The numbers Hosmer will end up with this season will be good. I'm not suggesting he's going to return to his 2012 levels (.232 average, 14 home runs, 60 RBI).

I'm just worried that too many people have gotten too wrapped up in Hosmer's figurative upside, and miss the fact that first base is a fairly deep position. You'll probably get an average of about .290 from Hosmer (although his 2012 might give pause to some drafters), along with 17 home runs and 15 steals. His career-high OPS is .801, and he cracked 30 doubles for the first time in his career in 2013.

So it's not that he'll be bad, just that expecting him to really surge past these numbers may be a bit much. As of now, Hosmer is Brandon Belt, with more steals; but he's being drafted 122 spots higher.

Rafael Soriano, RP, Nationals (Roto: Rd. 11, H2H: Rd. 13)

Soriano has served as a team's closer in three of the last four seasons; he's saved at least 42 games in each of those three campaigns.

But Soriano took a major hit in strikeouts last season, with just 51 over 66 2/3 innings. The 6.9 K/9 was Soriano's worst since his 2002 debut season, when he was still starting games. And his 91.4 average fastball velocity was the lowest of his career. While his overall line might not be a cause for concern (3.11 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 43 saves), the peripherals bubbling beneath the surface hint at some possible trouble ahead.

With plenty of closers available -- and even some nice sleepers like John Axford and Tommy Hunter going much later than Soriano -- it might be wise to pass on the 34-year-old for other options.

Matt Wieters, C, Orioles (Roto: Rd. 8, H2H: Rd. 11)

Wieters is going to hit 20-plus homers, but his average has gone down in each of the past three seasons (.262 in 2011, .249 in 2012, .235 in 2013), while he has failed to hit 30 doubles in any of his major league campaigns.

Wieters does get a good amount of at-bats, which should keep him in the mix for position leaders in RBI -- and helps to somewhat boost his relatively low run totals. But if he's going to hit .240 with 25 home runs this season, he's better taken in the later rounds of most single-catcher drafts, and on the lower end of the first catcher list in Roto leagues. The eighth round is too high for these numbers. His BABIP last season (.247) was far below league average, suggesting there is room to grow in batting average, but it might be more like him going up to .250, and not reaching the heights of his early-career (.288 in 2009) and minor league (.300-plus each season) marks.

Edwin Encarnacion, 1B, Blue Jays (Roto: Rd. 2, H2H: Rd. 3)

For years, I used to listen to MLB.com's Cory Schwartz extol the virtues of Encarnacion. It got to be a running joke at Tout Wars, bidding Cory up on Encarnacion, because you knew he'd go the extra dollar.

In 2012, it finally clicked, as Encarnacion hit .280 with 42 home runs, 13 steals, and 110 RBI. Cory got a Yoo-Hoo shower that October as league champion. Last year, Encarnacion nearly replicated those numbers, with a .272 average, 36 home runs, and 104 RBI. But a wrist injury cut his season short. Encarnacion had surgery on the wrist in mid-September, a procedure that cleared up scar tissue and damaged cartilage.

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Here's where I think we're missing some concern. Encarnacion is still being drafted early -- his ADP puts him in the second or third round of most formats. But he's coming off that wrist surgery, which could have a negative effect on his power. Granted, the procedure wasn't as serious as Jose Bautista's or Mark Teixeira's, but two months of rehab is no joke (it's not like a Mat Latos-style knee scope, where he's walking around a few days later) and Encarnacion may have some issues early in the season, which could drag down his value.

Encarnacion can still hit 30 home runs, but I'm not sure it's the lock that it would have been without the surgery.

Matt Carpenter, 2B, Cardinals (Roto: Rd. 5, H2H: Rd. 3)

Carpenter is currently the third second baseman being drafted in Head-to-Head formats and the fourth being taken in Rotisserie. His breakout 2013 campaign was punctuated by a league-leading 126 runs and 55 doubles. He also hit .318 with 11 home runs.

Carpenter is actually in the mold of players I like to draft -- he was an underrated darkhorse candidate who finally got a crack at full-time at-bats last year, and his skill was allowed to shine through. I think he can hold the line in average and home runs this year, but doubles and runs scored tend to fluctuate, and it's tough to rely on Carpenter for stats which he may not have a lot of control over. Scoring 100 runs at the top of the St. Louis lineup is doable; 126 will be tough to repeat (especially if Jhonny Peralta turns out to be a shell of his former self at the No. 2 spot). And while Carpenter could be good for 40 doubles, anticipating 50 is a tough task. Ask last year's Alex Gordon owners -- he hit 45 doubles in 2011 and 51 in 2012. With 700 plate appearances in 2013 and nothing seemingly wrong, Gordon only managed 27.

Carpenter will still be a solid Fantasy producer in 2014, but you'll have to make an effort to draft him, and he may not be able to replicate his success from last year.

Ben Zobrist, SS, Rays (Roto: Rd. 10, H2H: Rd. 7)

Zobrist has been a boon for Head-to-Head owners in the past -- he has 40 double potential, and his OBP has gone as high as .405 in the last five seasons. He also has 20/20 within reach every season and offers multi-position eligibility.

But Zobrist is erratic. While he's hit .270 or higher in three of the last five seasons, his career mark is still depressed at .263. His doubles have ranged from 28 to 46, and he has two seasons in the last five with 12 or fewer home runs. He's stolen 10 or more bases in each of the last five seasons (and he's never played in fewer than 151 games), but his totals have ranged from 11 to 24. If Zobrist isn't clicking, he becomes Zack Cozart with more steals. With an ADP of 81, Zobrist is going in the seventh round of most H2H drafts. While this is fine if he's going .290 with 20 homers, 35 doubles, and 15 steals, Zobrist has seen his numbers dip enough over the past five years to have drafters show a little more concern than his top-10 round stats.

There's upside with Zobrist, but also significant risk, which may outweigh his current ADP.

Joe Mauer, C, Twins (Roto: Rd. 3, H2H: Rd. 4)

Mauer, 30, will see more at-bats with the move to first base this season. And there's going to be significantly less wear and tear on his body. So he's set up for a nice boost in counting stats.

Mauer may hit 15 home runs with these 550-plus at-bats (assuming/legitimately hoping he has no ill effects from last season's concussion). He'll probably flirt with 40-plus doubles and is pretty much a lock for a .310-plus average. Five steals may be his ceiling. But his run scored and RBI totals will probably sag, as the Twins didn't do much to improve their lineup in the offseason.

And while they're mired in the village of Small Sample Size, Mauer's splits don't help his case much -- in his career, Mauer has played 55 games at first base. While his numbers there are in line with his overall career rates (.324 average and four home runs over 207 at-bats), his OPS is slightly lower (.831 vs .889) than when he catches. As much as I like Mauer, I'm not taking him in the third or fourth round; and if someone, somehow, forced me to take a catcher there, it would be Buster Posey, who has the same average potential, can hit more doubles and home runs, and should be able to equal Mauer's runs and RBI totals.

It's not that Mauer will put together a bad season, it's just that drafters may be overvaluing the move to first base and the 75-100 at-bats that will come along with it.

Everth Cabrera, SS, Padres (Roto: Rd. 7, H2H: Rd. 12)

Cabrera's Biogenesis suspension seems to bother me more than it does anyone else. I'm not sure where I stand with his batting average -- it fluctuated wildly in the minors, although it eventually evened out to a solid .290; he has a season of .246 and a season of .283 in the majors -- but I get the feeling his speed will take a hit.

Whether it was muscle-building PEDs or the gummy bear energy-boosting type, Cabrera got some help with his performance. And that performance, logically, should suffer from being off the PEDs. We don't have much to go on in terms of busted speedsters who served 50 game suspensions and returned the next season. Melky Cabrera was a disaster in 2013, but he turned out to have problems beyond the PED suspension and topped out at 20 steals previously in his career, so he wasn't exactly a pure speed play. And Mike Cameron, the only other real speed demon who served a suspension for PEDs, was 35 years old when he was caught in 2008. So this is uncharted territory.

Cabrera is the eighth shortstop being drafted, with the hopes that he'll get up to 50 steals and repeat his batting average. But if he falters at the plate, he's not going to have the opportunity to steal bases. And even before the suspension, there were batting average questions. By the end of the season, Asdrubal Cabrera might have more value at shortstop.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Nando at @NandoCBS .

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Player News
Tommy Milone fails to go five innings
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:20 am ET) Twins pitcher Tommy Milone can’t go five innings Friday against the Tigers.

Milone allowed five runs, three earned, on 10 hits over 4 1/3 innings. He struck out three and did not issue any walks during the outing. Milone got himself in trouble early, giving up a solo home run in the first inning. He tossed three scoreless innings before running into trouble in the fifth. Milone recorded an out against the first batter he faced. The second batter, Torii Hunter, managed to reach on an error. At that point, Milone fell apart. He gave up three singles and a double to the next four batters before being pulled from the game. Another run would come around to score on a sac fly, and was charged to Milone. 

Milone didn’t last five innings, so he was not eligible for the win. He’ll take on the Royals in his next start. 


Robbie Ray pounded Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:19 am ET) Tigers pitcher Robbie Ray was pounded against the Twins Friday.

Ray allowed six earned runs on six hits over 1 1/3 innings. He struck out three and did not issue any walks throughout the start. Ray was able to get through a scoreless first inning, but fell apart in the second. Ray allowed three straight doubles to open the frame, bringing in two runs. A mound visit seemed to calm him briefly, as he managed to strike out Kurt Suzuki. That calmness was short-lived. Ray surrendered a home run to Eduardo Escobar, a single to Jordan Schafer and another home run to Danny Santana. Ray was pulled from the game at that point.

With the loss, Ray dropped to 1-4. He’ll take on the Yankees in his next start.


Josh Collmenter turns in fantastic start
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:17 am ET) Diamondbacks pitcher Josh Collmenter turned in a fantastic start Friday against the Padres.

Collmenter allowed one run on four hits over 8 1/3 innings. He struck out eight and did not issue any walks during the appearance. Collmenter opened  the game with two perfect innings before giving up his first hit in the third. Collmenter then tossed five perfect innings. He ran into some trouble in the ninth. Collmenter allowed two singles and struck out a batter. He was pulled from the game after throwing 106 pitches. One of those runs came around to score, and was charged to Collmenter.

With the win, he improved to 9-7. Collmenter will take on the Rockies in his next start. 


Odrisamer Despaigne has a rough start
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:13 am ET) Padres pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne had a rough start Friday against the Diamondbacks.

Despaigne allowed four runs, three earned, on five hits over five innings. He struck out four and walked one during the outing. The Diamondbacks managed to strike early. With two outs in the first inning, he gave up a triple, single and home run to three straight batters. Another run came around in the second inning on a fielding error. 

With the loss, Despaigne dropped to 3-5. He’ll take on the Brewers in his next start. 


Mike Minor flirts with no-hitter, but can't win
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8/22/2014) Braves pitcher Mike Minor flirted with a no-hitter Friday against the Reds.

Minor allowed one run on one hit over 7 2/3 innings. He struck out five and walked four during the outing. Minor made it into the eighth inning before giving up his first hit of the game. Minor walked a batter earlier in the inning. That base-runner reached second on a groundout. With a man on second, Billy Hamilton knocked an RBI-single against Minor. It was the first hit Minor gave up all game. Minor was pulled after the hit. He threw 107 pitches.

Minor was matched by Mat Latos throughout the start. Because of that, he picked up a no-decision for his efforts. Minor will take on the Mets in his next start.


Mat Latos picks up no decision despite strong start
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8/22/2014) Reds pitcher Mat Latos tossed a solid start Friday against the Braves.

Latos allowed one run on nine hits over six innings. He struck out three and walked two during the outing. Latos gave up his only run in the third inning. After giving up three straight singles to load the bases, one run managed to come home an a groundout. Latos was able to get out of the inning without giving up any additional runs. Though he proved to be fairly hittable over the start, Latos was able to work his way out of trouble in all but the third inning. 

Latos was matched by Mike Minor during the start, forcing him to settle for a no-decision. He’ll take on the Cubs in his next start. 


Joe Kelly removed with 'sensation' in shoulder
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8/22/2014) Red Sox pitcher Joe Kelly was removed from Friday's game with "sensation" in his shoulder, according to the Boston Herald

Kelly was removed for precautionary reasons. He expects to make his next start. Kelly felt the issue in the fifth inning. 


Yovani Gallardo gets knocked around Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8/22/2014) Brewers pitcher Yovani Gallardo was knocked around Friday against the Pirates.

Gallardo allowed six runs, three earned, on eight hits over five innings. He struck out four and walked three during the outing. Gallardo got through a scoreless first inning, but was tagged for runs in each of the next four innings. In the second inning, leadoff man Russell Martin reached on an error. Gallardo then walked the next two batters, loading the bases. A sac fly and a double brought all three runs home. The Pirates added insurance runs in the third and fourth innings. Andrew McCutchen added a solo home run against Gallardo in the fifth. Gallardo made it out of the inning, but did not start the sixth. 

With the loss, Gallardo dropped to 8-7. He’ll take on the Padres in his next start. 


Jeff Locke wins despite control issues
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8/22/2014) Pirates pitcher Jeff Locke had a tough time with his control Friday.

Locke allowed two runs on two hits over six innings. He did not record any strikeouts and walked six batters. Locke gave up both runs in the first inning. After getting Carlos Gomez to pop out to begin the game, Locke walked Jonathan Lucroy, and age up a two-run homer to Ryan Braun. Locke would give up another walk during the inning, but got out of it without giving up any further damage. He gave up his only other hit in the fourth inning. 

Though walks were a problem, Locke managed to pitch out of trouble. With the win, he improved to 5-3. Locke will take on the Cardinals in his next start.


Yordano Ventura wins his 10th game
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8/22/2014) Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura tossed a strong start Friday against the Rangers.

Ventura gave up one run on four hits over six innings. He struck out six and walked three during the outing. Ventura gave up his only run in the first inning. With one out, Ventura allowed a single and ground-rule double. With men in scoring position, Ventura allowed a run to score on a groundout. He was able to escape the inning without giving up any further damage. Ventura put two men on in his final inning of work, but was able to get out of it without giving up any more runs. 

With the win, Ventura improved to 10-9. He’ll take on the Twins in his next start.


 
 
 
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